You don’t come to Razzball to be told that Gunnar Henderson, Corbin Carroll, and Anthony Volpe are terrific prospects that you should be trying to roster/acquire. You guys already know this, because you’re here–you’ve proven to have enough good fantasy baseball knowledge to know to be here rather than other places. You may have heard of the guys I’m going to mention in this column, too, but maybe I can help you see them in a different light, or help bring some 2022 improvement to your attention so that you have something actionable to work with if you’re in a deeper dynasty and have some room. All of these you should have eyes on for 2023; how soon is obviously not something I can see in my crystal ball.
Though all thoughts in Tampa right now are of Hurricane Ian and the possible devastation it may bring to the area (prayers up for all of you affected, Tampa), let’s try to distract a little bit about an absolute beast in the making–Kyle Manzardo. He’s half-man, half-…..zardo, I guess. What he’s done to minor league pitching this year is 100% amazing, though. Manzardo started his 2022 campaign in High-A, where he smacked 17 bombs in only 63 games, and just as impressively, struck out only one more time than he walked (46/45). His batted-ball quality was absurd, as he had a HR/FB% of over 21%, and he hit a line drive or fly ball 65% of the time. When you’re hitting the ball as hard as he did, and you’re hitting it in the air…homers will follow. The Rays jumped him to Double-A and the onslaught continued, juicing six more homers in only 30 games while maintaining an excellent eye at the plate (19 Ks/14 BBs in those 30 games). Manzardo is not a pop-up prospect, as he was 6th in the Rays organization entering 2022 (but only 21st in 2021), and you may be fairly familiar with him already, but he’s somebody to keep an eye on for 2023, as a quick start out of the gate could jump him to the big club by early-June. It’s not like Tampa Bay could use a power-hitting 1B, right? I’d be more inclined to think he could break camp with TB if he’d seen some Triple-A this year, but because he hasn’t, I think his earliest ETA would be June of 2023.
The Tigers already brought us one pop-up guy this year in Kerry Carpenter, but somebody had to Kerry Carpenter after Kerry Carpenter went to Motown. And that guy is 22-year old Parker Meadows, who was a 2nd round pick in 2018, did next to nothing until it was time to decide on protecting him on the 40-man roster, then promptly went all Kerry Carpenter on everybody, basically forcing the Tigers to keep him protected this winter (I’m not saying they will, but I think they kind of have to now). Meadows got off to a strong start just after being drafted in 2018, hitting nearly .300 in 28 games between rookie ball and Single-A. That came with really poor K% though, as he struck out nearly 30% of the time even then. Fast forward the next three years, as the K% stuck in the mid-20%s, but the average cratered and he hit with very little thump, as his 15 total HRs and mid-.300s slugging% the next three years show. It was the same old story for half of 2022, until Meadows was moved up to Double-A to replace Carpenter when Carpenter started his ascent to Triple-A and Detroit, and Meadows has been an entirely different hitter. In 113 games with Erie, Meadows has cranked 16 big flies while jumping his BB% to over 10% (it was lagging at just 6% the first half of the year) and dropping his K% to a career-low 18% (his previous career-best was 22% in Single-A). His average has bounced back up to .275, and though Meadows has always been fast/athletic, it never showed up in his speed totals until his 17 bags at Double-A this year. It’s too early to say if this “new” Meadows is for real, or if it’s playable at MLB, but the Tigers have themselves another interesting OF guy to keep an eye on into next year. With Akil Baddoo not helping himself any in 2022 and Carpenter being hit-or-miss (more miss with that 29% K%) at the MLB level so far, it doesn’t take a ton of squinting to see Meadows get his shot by next June if he shows continued development from here.
Staying with the Taylor Swiftian 22-year old theme, let’s head to the Steel City and look at an outstanding Bucs catcher prospect. No, I’m not talking about Henry Davis–we’re looking at Endy Rodriguez. Endy’s rise is nothing short of meteoric this season, as he started in High-A, worked everybody over to get the promotion to Double-A, went scorched-Earth there, and is five games into his Triple-A career, with no sign of slowing down. He started in Single-A, and after 88 games of .302 average and 16 HRs, Pittsburgh challenged him with a Double-A assignment, and he passed that test like he had the answer key beforehand. In only 31 games, Endy hit .356 with 8 homers and walked nearly as much as he struck out (21 Ks/18 BBs). He also smashed 14 doubles, to bump his slugging to .678 and his ISO to .322–both ridiculous numbers. After receiving enough invoices from the pharmacy from Double-A pitchers wanting treatment for ED (Endy Derangement; what did you think I meant?!?!), Pittsburgh gave him one more 2022 challenge and promoted him to Triple-A. It’s only been five games so far, but a .444 average and .222 ISO show he’s not overmatched. Though he hasn’t homered yet, he’s knocked in seven RBI so he’s still a big contributor to the club. It’s entirely possible Endy plays himself into breaking camp with Pittsburgh next year. One feather in his cap–he’s also played 2B and OF, giving him some flexibility for the Bucs to use if his bat plays. We all love guys like Daulton Varsho who have C eligibility, play every day, and hit the ball well–could Endy be Varsho Lite next year and beyond?
We’ll wrap this up with the oldest of our featured hitters today, so he’s a little less prospect-y and more of a late breakout with Cubs slugger Matt “Never Nervous” Mervis. Because of his age, I may be least high on him out of these four players, but Mervis may be playing his way into big league ABs for the Cubs in 2023. Mervis is another three-level riser this season, starting in High-A before torching both Double- and Triple-A to the tune of a .300 average and 29 HRs in 108 games (14 in 53 Double-A games and 15 in 53 Triple-A games, so the numbers weren’t inflated at a lower level). Helping our confidence in Mervis is the fact that in Triple-A he’s upped his BB% to over 10% (he’d previously been between 6%-8% since his Low-A debut) while drastically lowering his K% to 13.9% (and it had never been below 20% at any level). Mervis is making a run at the MiLB home run lead and leads the entire MiLB in extra base hits with a ridiculous 74; he’s also second in total bases with 299 and third in RBI with 113. As with Endy above, it’s entirely possible that Mervis breaks camp with the Cubs next year. Perhaps more probable is a one-year deal for a veteran 1B until they are *sure* that Mervis is ready, but even if they did that, it doesn’t necessarily preclude them from still bringing Mervis north with them for the start of the regular season.